Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

The price of democracy - cost of vote recount could be $35,000

Andrew King pipped Paula Southgate for the top job on Hamilton City Council by just nine votes. Southgate (pictured) has asked for a recount. Photo / Supplied
Andrew King pipped Paula Southgate for the top job on Hamilton City Council by just nine votes. Southgate (pictured) has asked for a recount. Photo / Supplied

A losing candidate is adding thousands to the price of democracy, with a recount for the Hamilton mayoralty set to cost up to $35,000.

But a mayoral candidate in Lower Hutt who lost by just six votes has ruled out a recount, saying "s*** happens" and he will take the loss on the chin.

Andrew King pipped Paula Southgate for the top job on Hamilton City Council by just nine votes, it was confirmed today.

Southgate announced she would be seeking a recount of the votes given the closeness of the race.

In a statement Southgate said she was "hugely disappointed" with the result.

"But many people feel very strongly that I should [request a recount] because the margin is so close.

"Given that, yes, I will be asking for a recount."

Electoral officer Dale Ofsoske said the cost of the recount could be up to $35,000, but would be covered by the council's insurance policy.

Ofsoske told the Herald the bulk of the money covered payment to contracted staff to perform the recount.

"We do the whole count from scratch, so that money really is largely in labour costs."

It also covered the leasing of equipment such as tables and chairs.

"We've got to have a space, and equipment and staff to redo the thing, that's where our cost comes in."

He was unsure exactly how much it would cost to pay staff for the recount.

"There's about 33,000 voting documents that we have to recount, but I haven't done that calculation yet."

He said between $30,000 and $35,000 was a "standard amount" for a recount of Hamilton's size.

Further south at Hutt City Council, a similarly close-run election result will not require a recount, as the man who was pipped at the post has decided to take the loss on the chin.

Former Lower Hutt deputy mayor Roger Styles missed out on a seat on the council by the slimmest of margins, falling behind rival Glenda Barratt by just six votes.

Barratt received 2073 votes compared to 2067 for Styles. Four votes for the ward's councillors were "informal", meaning they were filled out incorrectly, and 111 were left blank.

Styles was unhappy about the result but conceded that sometimes "s*** happens... that's the way it goes".

"Sometimes you get the odd tight vote, but I don't really mind, it's all good."

Barratt told the Herald that had she been in her opponent's shoes she wouldn't have requested a recount either.

"Once the counting has been done you've got to have trust that they'll do their job well.

"Even if the result wasn't in my favour I wouldn't have gone for a recount, I'm confident the job's been done to the best of everyone's ability."

Meanwhile in Auckland, the announcement of who will join Chris Darby as one of the North Shore's two councillors remains too close to call.

In the preliminary results Richard Hills was just 71 votes ahead of Grant Gillon.

Release of the official Auckland Council results has been delayed until Friday morning.

- NZ Herald

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